Director: Jan de Bont
Writers: David Self, Shirley Jackson (Novel)
Stars: Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor
Release Date: July 23, 1999
IMDB Synopsis: A study in fear escalates into a heart-stopping nightmare for a professor and three subjects trapped in a mysterious mansion.
Lord oh lord this movie stinks to high heaven. Based off Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House of 1959, The Haunting tries to bring the gothic ghost story to life. Unfortunately, nothing about this movie holds a candle to the terror the book entails.
Having actually ready The Haunting Of Hill House (well audiobook, but that still counts in my book), the dread Jackson is able to convey is tenfold compared to the truly confusing story weaved into a screenplay by David Self. The Haunting story is merely a conduit for the special effects that director Jan de Bont was obviously in love with. The book makes the house itself a character without becoming hokey, but this movie on the other hand makes the whole thing seem like a twisted The House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018). There is nothing scary about what the house in The Haunting does. There is nothing scary about the movie itself.
In terms of things that are most terrible about The Haunting, the worst may have to be Lili Taylor playing Nell. The fulcrum character of the entire movie, it is exceedingly difficult to feel sympathy for the events she is put through. While the writing isn’t do any of the actors any favors, the character of Nell is left hanging the most. Even if Lili Taylor gave the best performance of her career, Nell would only be bearable as a character.
Can we also speak about how loaded this cast is and how it still manages to be a major let down in every way? With the talents of Neeson, Zeta-Jones, Wilson, Taylor and even Bruce Dern, there is nothing positive to take from the characters in this movie.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is able to use its literary form to make the house itself the most intriguing character, but it is so hard to convey those same tangible traits to intangible objects in movies. A major reason by Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House success is how Mike Flanagan made the characters the focal point and house the accelerant. The Haunting attempted to accomplish the opposite, but the human component of the story is a fire extinguisher to any possible passion the story possessed. Safe to say, I am very glad Mike Flanagan learned his lesson in his haunted tale.
The only thing I learned watching The Haunting is that its tagline was “Ghosts with the most.” A fitting tagline for a fittingly terrible movie.
Stanko Rating: F (0.5/5 Stars)